All the government units currently protecting Brazil’s uncontacted tribes from invasion by loggers and ranchers could be withdrawn, according to information leaked to Survival International. The move would constitute the biggest threat to uncontacted Amazon tribes for a generation.
Agents from FUNAI, the country’s indigenous affairs department, perform a vital role in protecting uncontacted territories from loggers, ranchers, miners and other invaders. Some teams are already being withdrawn, and further withdrawals are planned for the near future.
Thousands of invaders are likely to rush into the territories once protection is removed.
There are estimated to be over 100 uncontacted tribes in Brazil, well over two-thirds of the global population of uncontacted people. Many of them live in indigenous territories, which total over 54.3 million hectares of protected rainforest, an area about the size of France.
These territories are guarded by just 19 dedicated FUNAI teams. It is possible that all 19 teams could be eliminated from the Brazilian state budget, despite the fact that money spent maintaining these teams is equal to the average salaries and benefits paid to just two Brazilian congressmen per year.FUNAI agents in Brazil. Ground teams work full-time to keep invaders out of uncontacted tribal territory, but this vital protection could be withdrawn.© Mário Vilela/FUNAI
The proposals are the latest in a long list of actions from the Temer government, which came to power in 2016 after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, that could have catastrophic consequences for indigenous peoples.
Indigenous activist Sonia Guajajara said: “By cutting down the FUNAI budget, the government is declaring the extinction of indigenous people.”
Paulo Marubo, an indigenous man from the Javari Valley in Brazil’s Amazon said: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”Indigenous protestors in Brasilia, Brazil.© Fabio Nascimento / Mobilização Nacional Indígena
Campaigners have suggested that the government’s close ties to Brazil’s powerful ranching and agribusiness lobbies – which consider indigenous territories to be a barrier to their own expansion – could be part of the reason for the proposal.
Major indigenous protests are taking place this week in Brasilia against government proposals to water down protection for indigenous rights.
Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
Survival International is leading the global fight for uncontacted tribes’ right to their land, and to determine their own futures.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Cuts in government budgets to protect uncontacted tribes are clearly nothing to do with money – the sums involved are tiny. It’s a political move from agribusiness which sees uncontacted tribes as a barrier to profit and is targeting rainforest which has been off-limits to development. The reality is these cuts could sanction genocide.”
Survival International is delighted to announce a new partnership with the Curran Theater in San Francisco, which is set to host Survival International ambassador Simon McBurney’s hit one-man play “The Encounter”.
Survival will hold a special evening on April 27 for supporters at the Curran from 6.30 pm PST. This will include a private drinks reception and a discussion with Simon McBurney and Survival USA co-ordinator Tesia Bobrycki after the show, about tribal peoples’ rights.
Simon is a long-standing Survival supporter with an interest in indigenous rights and environmental causes. He devised “The Encounter,” based on a book by Petru Popescu, after spending time in the Amazon with indigenous peoples. This experience developed his interest in Survival’s work.Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air during a Brazilian government expedition in 2010.© G.Miranda/FUNAI/Survival
“The Encounter” addresses many of the issues affecting the Matsés people from the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, many of whom were forcibly contacted by missionaries in 1969. Some members of the tribe are still uncontacted.
The play traces a journey into the depths of the Amazon rainforest, using 3D audio technology to build an intimate and shifting world of sound.
Details can be found on the Curran theater website.Simon McBurney performs in experimental one-man show 'The Encounter' about the tribal peoples of the Javari Valley.© Gianmarco Bresadola
Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. We know very little about them. But we do know there are more than a hundred around the world. And we know whole populations are being wiped out by genocidal violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
Survival International is leading the global fight for uncontacted tribes’ right to determine their own futures.
Survival Director Stephen Corry said: “The Encounter is a bravura piece of story-telling which plunges you deep into the Amazon. It’s an experience that brings the Amazon and its people – usually so remote from us – vividly to life, and we’re delighted to join up with the Curran Theater and Simon McBurney to bring our urgent message to a new audience.”
Note: Survival supporters get 20% off tickets to THE ENCOUNTER and a free tote bag by using the offer code SURVIVALINTL at this link
For Earth Day (April 22), Survival International reveals some of the amazing ways in which tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world:
1. The Baka “Pygmies” have over 15 words for elephant
The Baka people know so much about elephants, they have different words for them according to their sex, age and even temperament.
Studies have shown how the Baka in many areas live alongside high densities of endangered species. One Baka man told Survival: “We know when and where the poachers are in the forest but no one will listen to us.” Instead of tackling the causes of environmental destruction, conservation projects expose people like the Baka to harassment and beatings, torture and death.
2. The Kogi have helped restore a once-degraded area of land
The Kogi tribe from Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains acquired some land – a tiny piece of their ancestral territory – in 2012 with the help of a small conservation team. Since then, conservationists report that vegetation has grown back, waters have been decontaminated, and lakes that had been filled with trash are turning into “beautiful freshwater lagoons.“
3. The Baiga have restored over 600 acres of forest around just one village
In the village of Dhaba in central India, Baiga tribal villagers became concerned that the local forest department were cutting down too many trees, supposedly to stop the spread of a pest. They protested and physically intervened, placing themselves between the forest officials and the trees.
Their protest succeeded, and now several tree species like the char, mahuli, and bamboo have regenerated around the village. The Baiga planted many of the trees themselves.
4. Tukano shamans set hunting quotas for their tribe
A major anthropological study noted that Tukano shamans in Colombia take an active role in controlling their tribe’s hunting activities. They take counts of how many animals are being killed, and prohibit hunting in certain areas where they think population density is getting low.
5. The Soliga control invasive plant species through selective use of fire
India’s Soliga tribe used to light small fires to clear land for sustainable agriculture. Since that practice was banned in the name of conservation, local ecosystems have deteriorated, because an invasive weed species called lantana has been allowed to take over. One Soliga man said: “The Forest Department don’t have the conservation knowledge. We conserved the forest for many years. They don’t know how to protect our forest.”
6. The Awá don’t hunt certain species, to maintain ecosystem balance
Brazil’s Awá people live by hunting and foraging in the northeast of the Amazon rainforest. However, it is taboo for Awá hunters to kill certain animals, including endangered harpy eagles, hummingbirds, and capybaras. The Awá have a deep understanding of the environment and their place within it.
7. Tribal territories are the best barriers against Amazon deforestation
Look at this satellite image And this one. And this one as well. All of them show protected tribal territories in Brazil’s Amazon – islands of green surrounded by deforestation. When you protect tribal land rights, you protect the rainforest. Simple.
8. The Orang Asli create habitats and food for animals by gardening
Orang Asli fruit gardens in the Krau wildlife reserve in Malaysia encourage many animals, including large mammals, into their area. They provide food and even act as the main seed dispersers, fulfilling a role once performed by elephants and rhinos, which have now disappeared from the area. Small-scale tribal agriculture often enhances biodiversity.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Tribal peoples have managed their environments for millennia and there’s now plenty of evidence to prove that they’re better at looking after them than anyone else. This isn’t “noble savagery”, it’s scientific fact. If we want to help the environment, it’s time we put tribal peoples at the forefront of the conservation movement. If we want to save the rainforest, for example, we must fight to ensure it’s kept in the hands of its tribes.”
Survival International is planning a global wave of protest against the destruction of tribal peoples’ land, lives, and human rights, on Brazil’s Day of the Indian (April 19).
Survival supporters and members of the public will demonstrate at the Brazilian embassy in London, demanding land rights for the Guarani and other tribes across the country. They will be joined by Guarani activist Ladio Veron.
Where: Brazilian embassy, 14-16 Cockspur St, London, SW1Y 5BL
When: 9:30 until 10:30am, April 19, 2017
Protest actions are also taking place in Brazil, the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Ranchers and agribusiness have forced the Guarani off their ancestral land in central Brazil into lives of poverty. Many are forced to live on roadsides, drinking polluted water and living in makeshift camps.The Guarani people are determined to fight for their land and rights, and frequently protest.© CIMI/Survival
Their plight has been described by the UN as a humanitarian crisis. The tribe also suffers the highest suicide rate in the world.
Ladio Veron is currently touring Europe to raise awareness of his people’s plight. He said of the Guarani’s campaign to return to their ancestral land: “We will resist at any price. All we have left to lose is our lives.”
The Guarani face harassment by gunmen hired by ranchers and other powerful vested interests on an almost daily basis. When they try to reoccupy the land which is rightfully theirs under Brazilian and international law, they frequently suffer violent reprisals.
Tribes nationwide are forcefully opposing a wave of anti-indigenous proposals currently being debated by politicians. If passed into law, they could give anti-Indian landowners the chance to block the recognition of new indigenous territories, and break up and steal existing ones. This would be disastrous for Brazilian tribes, and could lead to uncontacted tribes being wiped out.
Survival International is leading the global fight for tribal peoples’ land rights. The theft of tribal land destroys self-sufficient peoples and their diverse ways of life. It causes disease, destitution and suicide. The evidence is indisputable.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The assault on Brazilian Indians is back with a vengeance. Tribal people are dying as Brazilian politicians deliberately allow ranchers and soya barons to steal and destroy Indian territory. The key to tribal peoples’ survival and prosperity is to ensure their land remains under their control. We are doing everything we can to secure it for them.”
Photos will be available through the news section of Survival’s website shortly after the protest.
Survival International has learned that politicians from a notoriously violent town in Brazil are lobbying behind the scenes to open up the territory of a vulnerable uncontacted tribe.
Councillors from Colniza in central Brazil, which is dominated by illegal logging and ranching and for years was Brazil’s most violent town, have met the Minister of Justice to lobby for the Rio Pardo indigenous territory to be drastically reduced in size. The minister is reportedly sympathetic to the councillors’ proposals.Armed loggers and powerful ranchers are razing the Kawahiva's forest to the ground.© FUNAI
The Kawahiva depend entirely on the rainforest for survival, and have been on the run from loggers and other invaders for years.
The Rio Pardo territory was only recognized in 2016, following a global campaign by Survival International and pressure within Brazil.
Thousands of Survival supporters contacted the then-Minister of Justice demanding action. Oscar-winning actor and Survival ambassador Sir Mark Rylance fronted a major media push, culminating in the signing of the decree that should have secured the Indians’ territory for good.
Now, however, vested interests in the region could undo much of that progress.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Brazil must respect the rights of its tribal peoples. Uncontacted peoples, like the Kawahiva, clearly want to be left alone and to live as they please. But Brazil’s current leaders are holding closed-door meetings with corrupt politicians, and kowtowing to the agribusiness lobby, expressly to deny them that right. The stakes could not be higher – entire peoples are facing genocide as a result of this callous approach.”
The Kawahiva are hunter-gatherers, who migrate from camp to camp through the Rio Pardo rainforest.
Roads, ranches and logging all risk exposing them to violence from outsiders who steal their lands and resources, and to diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International is leading the global fight to secure their land for them, and to give them the chance to determine their own futures.
The current Brazilian government is attempting to roll back decades of gradual progress in the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in the country. The Minister of Justice recently said: “Enough of all this talk of land [demarcation] – land doesn’t fill anyone’s stomach.” And the new head of Indigenous Affairs Department FUNAI has said “Indians can’t be ‘fixed in time.’”
Survival International has called on the UN expert on extrajudicial executions to condemn shoot on sight conservation policies.
In a letter to the Special Rapporteur charged with the issue, Survival stated that “shoot on sight policies directly affect tribal people who live in or adjacent to ‘protected areas’… particularly when park guards so often fail to distinguish subsistence hunters from commercial poachers.”
The letter adds that “nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against [suspected poachers], and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason. Many countries have gone further, and granted wildlife officers immunity from prosecution.”
The letter cites Kaziranga National Park in India as an especially striking example of the tactic. According to a recent BBC report, an estimated 106 people have been extrajudicially executed there in the last 20 years, including one disabled tribal man who had wandered over the park boundary to retrieve cattle.
Kaziranga guards have effective legal immunity from prosecution, and have admitted that they are instructed to shoot poaching suspects on sight. This has had serious consequences for tribal peoples living around the park. In June 2016, a seven-year-old tribal boy was shot and maimed for life by guards.Akash Orang is comforted by his mother after being shot by a park guard. He is now severely disabled.© BBC
Similar policies are used in other parts of the world, notably Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, among other African countries.
Speaking about his own anti-poaching work in Africa, poaching expert Rory Young from the organization Chengeta said: ”Shoot on sight is stupid. If we had been shooting on sight during this latest sting operation we would have shot a handful of poachers and that would have been the end of it. Every single poacher is an opportunity for information to get more poachers and work your way up the chain to the ringleaders.”
Survival has asked the Special Rapporteur to clarify that shoot on sight violates fundamental rights enshrined in the UN’s Civil and Political Rights Covenant and other international conventions. It also urges the UN to enquire about the policy with the Indian government, and the government of Assam state, where Kaziranga is located.
Shoot on sight is justified on the grounds that it helps to deter poachers. However, there have been several recent cases of guards and officials at Kaziranga being arrested for involvement in the illegal wildlife trade themselves.
Survival International is leading the fight against these abuses, and calling for a new conservation model that respects tribal peoples. Targeting tribal people diverts action away from tackling the true poachers – criminals conspiring with corrupt officials. Targeting tribal people harms conservation.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “If any other industry was guilty of this level of human rights abuses, there would be an international outcry. Why the silence when conservationists are involved? Torture and extrajudical killing is never justified – the law is clear on this. Some people think that the death of innocents is justified, that ‘collateral damage’ is necessary in the fight against poaching. We ask them, where is your humanity? Of course, there’s a racist element at play here: Shoot on sight policies would be unthinkable in North America or Europe.”
Survival has received disturbing reports that a Guarani community in Brazil has been threatened by masked men, possibly belonging to Brazil’s airforce.
According to the Guarani Kaiowá, a helicopter landed in the community of Takuara on 25 March.
One eyewitness reported that masked men descended and made a group of Indians kneel down. The men threatened to kill them if they tried to run away, while two more helicopters circled above the community.Ladio Veron, Guarani activist and son of Marcos Veron, speaking in Madrid in 2017© Alienor de Sas / Survival
Ladio is the son of the renowned Guarani Kaiowá leader Marcos Veron, who was beaten to death in January 2003 after he led the community back on to part of their ancestral land.
Following her visit to the Guarani last year, the UN’s top expert on indigenous peoples’ rights strongly condemned the Brazilian government’s failure to protect the tribe.
The Guarani are subject to genocidal violence and racism as their lands and resources are stolen in the name of “progress” and “civilization.”
Most of their land has been stolen from them by Brazil’s agri-business industry which is determined that none should be returned to them – in defiance of the constitution, which recognizes indigenous peoples’ right to their ancestral lands.
The situation facing the Guarani is one of the most urgent and horrific humanitarian crises of our time. In April 2016, Survival International launched its “Stop Brazil’s Genocide” campaign to draw the crisis to global attention.
Survival is also campaigning against a proposal to change Brazil’s constitution, known as PEC 215. The measure would give anti-Indian landowners the chance to block the recognition of new indigenous territories – and might even enable them to break up existing ones. This would be disastrous for Brazilian tribes, because land is the key to their survival. Without it, none of their human rights can be realized. Tribes such as the Guarani fear this would mean they’d never recover the land that was stolen from them.
• The area is home to the last uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon
• It has the highest deforestation rate in the world
Efforts to protect the territory of a vulnerable uncontacted tribe from rampant illegal deforestation have received a boost with the opening of talks between the Paraguayan government and tribal representatives.
The uncontacted Ayoreo are the last uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon. Their territory, in western Paraguay, has the highest deforestation rate in the world.
Contacted members of the tribe submitted a formal land claim in 1993, with support from local organization GAT. Since then vast swathes of their forest have been destroyed.
The talks are the result of a formal request, submitted by local organization GAT to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), for the land be returned to its rightful indigenous owners.
Government representatives will meet monthly with Ayoreo leaders for one year, in a process overseen by a U.N. official.
The Ayoreo’s territory is occupied by a number of companies that are deforesting the land to make way for cattle. These include Brazilian ranching enterprise Yaguarete Porá S.A and Carlos Casado S.A (a subsidiary of Spanish construction company Grupo San José).
An unknown number of Ayoreo remain uncontacted. They live on the run, fleeing the rapid destruction of their forest home.
Many, however, have already been forced out of their territory by outsiders. A number of them have contracted a mysterious TB-like disease which has killed several members of the tribe.
In February 2016, the IACHR issued an emergency injunction ordering the Paraguayan government to stop any further deforestation and protect the vulnerable uncontacted Indians living in the region. The government, however, has not complied with the order. A recent satellite image shows that in 2016, the forests were still being cleared.Illegal deforestation by ranching companies continued on Ayoreo land throughout 2016.© GAT
Ayoreo land is some of the last remaining intact forest left in Paraguay.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The government has ignored the Ayoreo for far too long. If real progress is not made this year, their uncontacted relatives could soon be wiped out. The Ayoreo are best placed to protect their forest homes. Destroying the Ayoreo will also destroy some of the most biodiverse land in Paraguay.”
- Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by genocidal violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
- They are the best guardians of their environment. And evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.
- Ayoreo land is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
- It is estimated that over 14 million trees are being cut down every month in Paraguay.
- The U.N. has found that the Ayoreo are in a ‘state of emergency’ and has warned that the government’s failure to return the land to its rightful owners puts the Indians’ lives in great danger.
A Canadian oil company has told Survival International it will withdraw from the territory of several uncontacted tribes in the Amazon where it had been intending to explore for oil.
The company, Pacific E&P, had previously been awarded the right to explore for oil in a large area of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, a region of immense biodiversity which is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth. It began its first phase of oil exploration in 2012.
The move follows years of campaigning by Survival International and several Peruvian indigenous organizations, including AIDESEP, ORPIO, and ORAU. ORPIO is suing the government over the threat of oil exploration.
Thousands of Survival supporters had protested by sending emails to the company’s CEO, lobbying the Peruvian government, and contacting the company through social media.
Survival also released an open letter, protesting against the threat of oil exploration, which was signed by Rainforest Foundation Norway and ORPIO. Sustained campaigning helped bring attention to the issue within Peru and around the world.The Matsés have been dependent on and managed a large area of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier for generations.© Christopher Pillitz
In the letter Pacific E&P’s Institutional Relations and Sustainability Manager said that: “”[The company] has made the decision to relinquish its exploration rights in Block 135… effective immediately… We wish to reiterate the company’s commitment to conduct its operations under the highest sustainability and human rights guidelines.”
At a tribal meeting in late 2016, a man from the Matsés tribe, which was forced into contact in the late 20th century, said: “I don’t want my children to be destroyed by oil and war. That’s why we’re defending ourselves… and why we Matsés have come together. The oil companies … are insulting us and we won’t stay silent as they exploit us on our homeland. If it’s necessary, we’ll die in the war against oil.”
Oil exploration involves sustained land invasion which can dramatically increase the risk of forced contact with uncontacted tribes. It leaves them vulnerable to violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and to diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
The announcement that it was not going ahead was welcomed by campaigners as significant in the fight to protect uncontacted peoples’ lives, lands and human rights.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “This is great news for the global campaign for uncontacted tribes and all those who wish to halt the genocide that has swept across the Americas since the arrival of Columbus. All uncontacted peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected but we believe they are a vitally important part of humankind’s diversity and deserve their right to life to be upheld. We will continue to lead the fight to let them live.”The region includes the Sierra del Divisor, or “Watershed Mountains,” a unique and highly biodiverse region known for its cone-shaped peaks.© Diego Perez
▪ Oil block 135 is within the proposed Yavarí Tapiche indigenous reserve. Peru’s national Indian organization AIDESEP has been calling for the creation of the reserve for over 14 years.
▪ Part of the oil concession is within the newly created Sierra del Divisor national park. The Peruvian government had awarded Pacific E&P rights to explore within the park.
▪ The Yavarí Tapiche region is part of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier. This area straddles the borders of Peru and Brazil and is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else in the world.
▪ Peru has ratified ILO 169, the international law for tribal peoples, which requires it to protect tribal land rights.
▪ We know very little about the uncontacted tribes in the area. Some are presumed to be Matsés, but there are likely to be other uncontacted nomadic peoples in the region.
Uncontacted tribes are not backward and primitive relics of a remote past. They are our contemporaries and a vitally important part of humankind’s diversity. Where their rights are respected, they continue to thrive.
Their knowledge is irreplaceable and has been developed over thousands of years. They are the best guardians of their environment. And evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.
All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International is leading the global fight to secure their land for them, and to give them the chance to determine their own futures.
In an open letter to the Peruvian authorities, Survival International, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Peruvian indigenous organization ORPIO have denounced the Peruvian government’s failure to protect uncontacted tribes.
The organizations are calling for the government to create an indigenous reserve, known as Yavari-Tapiche, for uncontacted tribes along the Peru-Brazil border, and to put a stop to outsiders entering the territory.
In the letter the three organizations state: “Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They have made the decision to be isolated and this must be respected…
“The Yavarí Tapiche region is home to uncontacted peoples. Despite knowing of their existence and enormous vulnerability, the government has failed to guarantee their protection…
“These tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Only by creating the proposed Yavarí Tapiche indigenous reserve and implementing effective protection mechanisms that prevent the entry of outsiders, will the indigenous people be given the chance to determine their own futures…
“We are also concerned about the government’s refusal to exclude oil exploration within the proposed reserve…. No exploration or exploitation of oil should ever be carried out on territories inhabited by uncontacted Indians…
“We believe that the oil company Pacific Stratus is poised to begin operations this year in areas where there are uncontacted tribes…
“By failing to both create the reserve and to rule out oil exploration, Peru is violating both domestic and international law…
“If the government does not act urgently to protect the uncontacted peoples of Yavarí Tapiche, we fear that they will not survive. Another tribe will disappear from the face of the earth, before the eyes of the world.”
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “We’ve repeatedly called for the Yavarí-Tapiche indigenous reserve to be created and for oil exploration to be ruled out, but the government has dragged its feet. The lives of uncontacted Indians are on the line but once again, economic interests take priority.”
- The Yavarí Tapiche region is part of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier. This area straddles the borders of Peru and Brazil and is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else in the world.
- Pacific Stratus, part of Canadian oil company Pacific E&P, began its first phase of oil exploration in 2012, despite protests from indigenous organizations and Survival International. It is believed that the company will begin its second phase soon.
- Oil exploration is devastating for uncontacted tribes. Over 50% of the Nahua tribe died as a result of exploration in the 80s.
- The indigenous organization ORPIO is suing the government over the threat of oil exploration.
- National indigenous organization AIDESEP has been calling for the creation of the reserve for over 14 years.
Survival International has launched a boycott of Kaziranga National Park in India – notorious for its “shoot on sight” conservation tactics – beginning this World Wildlife Day (March 3). The boycott will last until the park stops shooting people on sight.
Survival has written to 131 tour companies in 10 countries urging them to join the boycott. Two French operators – Hote Antic Travel and Evaneos – have already signed up.
Survival ambassadors actress Gillian Anderson, illustrator Sir Quentin Blake CBE and Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance have joined the boycott, as well as musician and photographer Julian Lennon, and actor Dominic West.Sir Mark said: “I am eager to join Survival’s boycott of Kaziranga National Park. Shooting people on sight is never justified, and too many innocent tribal people have already been shot."
106 people have reportedly been killed in the park in the last 20 years. A seven-year-old tribal boy was shot there in July 2016 and maimed for life. In a separate incident, a severely disabled tribal man was killed while trying to retrieve a stray cow.
A recent BBC investigation uncovered torture by park guards, who are also instructed to shoot intruders on sight, regardless of evidence and without arrest, trial, or any opportunity for questioning. One guard admitted that they were “fully ordered to shoot” anyone who had wandered over the park’s unmarked boundary.
One local man who had been beaten by the park’s officials told a Survival campaigner: “The forest department tortured me, beat me, put electric shocks in my elbows, knees and private parts.”Kaziranga is home to a large population of one-horned rhinos.© Wikimedia Commons
A 2014 report by the park’s director discussed the issue in great detail. It revealed training mantras for guards include “must obey or get killed” and “kill the unwanted.”
The park is home to several endangered species, including the one-horned rhino and Bengal tiger. It receives over 170,000 tourist visitors a year, despite extrajudicial executions and serious human rights violations committed in the name of conservation.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has provided training and equipment to park guards, including “combat and ambush” training and what the BBC called “night-vision googles.” The organization also advertises tours of the park on its site.
Some conservationists, including Save the Rhino, have been critical of the shoot on sight policy. However, big conservation organizations have ignored Survival’s demand that they condemn the practice, including WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, among others.Dozens of people have been shot on sight by park guards in Kaziranga.© Survival
Shoot on sight has been criticized not only for its human rights implications but also for being ineffective conservation. Rory Young, anti-poaching expert and co-founder of anti-poaching NGO Wildlife said: "Shoot on sight is stupid. If we had been shooting on sight during this latest sting operation we would have shot a handful of poachers and that would have been the end of it. Every single poacher is an opportunity for information to get more poachers and work your way up the chain to the ringleaders.”
Survival International is leading the fight against abuses committed in the name of conservation. Shoot on sight fails to tackle the real poachers – criminals conspiring with corrupt officials. Tribal people face arrest and beatings, torture and death in parks like Kaziranga, while many forest officials are accused of involvement in the illegal wildlife trade.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Kaziranga conservationists are pretending there’s no shoot on sight in the reserve. It’s simply not true. Park guards are ordered to shoot intruders on sight and children like 7-year-old Akash can be on the receiving end. Shoot on sight is the same as extrajudicial killing. It’s a gross human rights violation that would be publicly condemned if it were operated by any other industry. The big conservation organizations fail to condemn it and even support it.”
The Indian government has reportedly banned the BBC from filming in any tiger reserve nationwide for five years, after its South Asia correspondent investigated “shoot on sight” conservation in the country.
Justin Rowlatt investigated the impact of deadly conservation tactics on tribal communities living around Kaziranga National Park for a report which aired in February 2017. The report documented instances of beatings, torture and death in the national park, where 106 people are estimated to have been killed without trial in the last 20 years, including a severely disabled tribal man.
Rowlatt has also been threatened with having his visa revoked by India’s conservation authorities.
A seven-year-old tribal boy was shot and maimed for life in the park in July. Guards are “fully ordered” to shoot any intruders, according to a guard interviewed in the film, and are given effective immunity from prosecution if they kill or injure suspects.Akash Orang, a tribal boy, was shot by a park guard in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India.© JEEPAL
Despite interviews with park guards and tribal people affected by the policy, citation of a report from the park’s own director, documentary footage of violent evictions, and a refusal to condemn shoot on sight by a senior WWF-India official, conservation authorities have tried to claim that the report was “grossly erroneous.”
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has complained that the report should have been submitted for “obligatory previewing” at India’s Ministry of External Affairs, “in order to remove any deviations.”
They have also asserted that the film-makers should not have been “filming after sunset” and “deviated” from the original synopsis submitted to the Ministry of Environment.Two non-tribal settlers were killed during violent evictions on the edge of Kaziranga in late 2016.© The Wire
The park is currently being expanded, which could lead to tribal and other local communities being illegally evicted.
Survival International was interviewed for the BBC film, and is leading the global fight against abuses in the name of conservation. Survival is calling for a conservation model which respects tribal peoples as the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, and for an end to dangerous policies like shoot on sight.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Censorship of the press is a hallmark of oppressive government regimes. This time it’s conservationists who want to clamp down on press freedom. It’s not surprising – they have a lot to hide. As Mr Rowlatt’s investigations exposed, India’s conservation authorities are responsible for gross human rights violations. Shoot on sight is illegal, immoral, and harming conservation efforts. It’s time the big conservation organizations condemned this madness.”
Brazilian Indians paraded and protested at the renowned Rio Carnival, to raise global awareness of their land struggle and the serious threats they face.
17 indigenous leaders, including Kayapó leader Raoni Metuktire, paraded with the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school in its ensemble which focussed on the destruction of tribal territories in the Amazon rainforest.
The lyrics of the school’s songs expose the destruction Indians have faced since the colonization of Brazil, and criticize the ongoing theft of tribes’ land for the Belo Monte mega-dam and other projects.
The music has provoked outrage and anger among anti-indigenous politicians, and has led to racist comments by a TV presenter who said that Indians will “have to die of malaria.”Brazilian Indians from the Xingu support the samba school's ensemble, Carnival 2017© Imperatriz Leopoldinense
Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara said at Carnival: “Thanks to the samba school for giving us another tool in our struggle, as we face powerful economic and political interests. Carnival can strengthen our fight.”
Attacks on indigenous peoples in Brazil are intensifying: Violence against their communities has increased, and Congress is debating several proposals which would drastically weaken indigenous peoples’ control of their lands. Tribal people and their allies, including Survival supporters around the world, are fighting the proposals.
Babau Tupinambá, an indigenous leader, said: “Indigenous peoples will not stop fighting for our rights. We will not stop fighting to exist.”
Around the world, industrialized societies subject tribal peoples to genocidal violence, slavery and racism so they can steal their lands, resources and labor in the name of “progress” and “civilization.” The theft of tribal land destroys self-sufficient peoples and their diverse ways of life. It causes disease, destitution and suicide. The evidence is indisputable.
Survival International – the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights – is proud to announce its fourth worldwide photography competition.
The competition aims to celebrate photography as a powerful medium for raising awareness of tribal peoples, their unique ways of life and the threats to their existence.
Both amateur and professional photographers are encouraged to enter.
The theme this year is tribal conservationists. We’re looking for images that show tribal peoples in their natural environment, as the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world to support Survival’s “Stop the Con!” campaign.One of last year’s winning entries, a Yanomami boy in Brazil by Luigi Repetto.© Survival
The judging panel includes Survival’s Director Stephen Corry, Survival Italy Coordinator Francesca Casella, The Little Black Gallery Co-Founder Ghislain Pascal, Max Houghton, Senior Lecturer in Photography at the London College of Communication and award-winning photographer Edmund Clark.
The twelve winning entries will be published in Survival’s 2018 calendar, with the overall winner’s image featuring on the cover.
All submitted photographs must have been taken in the last 10 years.
The closing date for entries is April 30, 2017.
All entry details at www.survivalinternational.org/photography
A BBC investigation has revealed that tribal peoples living around a national park in India are facing arrest and beatings, torture and death under the Park’s notorious “shoot-on-sight” policy.
The report for television, radio and the BBC news website featured interviews with park guards, tribal people who have been affected by the policy in Kaziranga National Park, and a spokesman from WWF-India, which helps fund, train and equip park guards and advertises tours of the park through its website.
The park gets over 170,000 visitors each year. Fifty suspects were extrajudicially executed there in the last three years, and a severely disabled tribal man was shot dead in 2013. The BBC has estimated that 106 have been killed in the last 20 years. In the same period, only one official has been killed.Reports confirm that seven-year-old Akash Orang will never fully recover after having been shot by Kaziranga park guards in 2016.© JEEPAL
The BBC interviewed one local man who had been beaten and tortured with electric shocks during a detention by park officials before they realized he had no involvement in poaching.
The program also featured Akash Orang, a seven-year-old tribal boy who was shot in the legs by park guards last July. Akash said that: “The forest guards suddenly shot me” as he was on his way to a local shop. His father said: “He’s changed. He used to be cheerful. He isn’t any more. In the night, he wakes up in pain and he cries for his mother.”
Park guards have effective immunity from prosecution and are encouraged to shoot suspects on sight – without arrest or trial, or any evidence that they might have been involved in poaching. One guard admitted that they are: “Fully ordered to shoot them, whenever you see the poachers or any people during night-time we are ordered to shoot them.”Several Kaziranga park guards and officials have been accused of involvement in poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in recent years.© BBC
WWF has provided equipment – including what the BBC calls “night vision goggles” – which have been used in night-time operations and “combat and ambush” training. When asked by the BBC how donors might feel about their money being used to enforce this brutal treatment, WWF India’s spokesman said that: “What is needed is on-ground protection… We want to reduce poaching and the idea is to reduce it with involving other partners.”
Survival International is leading the global fight against these abuses and first brought the park’s high death toll and serious instances of corruption among Kaziranga officials – including involvement in the illegal wildlife trade they are employed to stop – to global attention in 2016.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Conservation organizations, including WWF, are supporting a model of conservation which is resulting in gross human rights abuses. They have failed to condemn policies that are leading to widespread extrajudicial executions. For too long, conservation has relied on its positive public image to hide its horrific and sustained attacks on indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights. We’re working to stop this. It’s time for conservationists to work with tribal people, the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. It’s time for conservation organisations to call for an end to shoot on sight policies.”
© El Heraldo
An indigenous leader has been shot dead in Colombia.
Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela, 43, was a leader of the Wiwa tribe and a campaigner for both indigenous and women’s rights.
The Wiwa are one of four tribes that live on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a unique pyramid-shaped mountain in northern Colombia. The Sierra Nevada Indians believe it is their responsibility to maintain the balance of the universe.
Bernal Varela is the latest victim in a long line of attacks against Sierra Nevada leaders, who have been at the forefront of the indigenous movement in South America. Many Indians have been killed by drug gangs, left-wing guerrillas and the army.
In November 2012 Rogelio Mejía, the leader of one of the other Sierra Nevada tribes, the Arhuaco, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.
José Gregorio Rodríguez, secretary of the Wiwa Golkuche organization, stated: “Indigenous people are being threatened and intimidated. Today they murdered our comrade and violated our rights. Our other leaders must be protected.”
The problem is not limited to Colombia. Indigenous activists throughout Latin America are being murdered for campaigning against the theft of their lands and resources. The murderers are seldom brought to justice.
A Batwa “Pygmy” man is facing up to five years in prison for hunting a small antelope inside Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a protected area from which the Batwa were violently and illegally evicted.
Kafukuzi Valence, who is to appear in court today, claims the duiker had strayed into a field adjacent to the park. The district police have reportedly said to his family that they will release him if they are paid 5,700,000 Ugandan shillings (nearly USD $1600). The Batwa can expect to receive a salary of less than one US dollar for a day’s labor.
The park was established on the ancestral homelands of the Batwa hunter-gatherers in 1991, with the support of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and without the Batwa’s consent. Now the Batwa are accused of “poaching” when they hunt to feed their families.The Batwa have been illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands inside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.© Bagaragazagod
As one Batwa man recalled: “One day, we were in the forest when we saw people coming with machine guns and they told us to get out of the forest. We were very scared so we started to run not knowing where to go, and some of us disappeared. They either died or went somewhere we didn’t know. As a result of the eviction, everybody is now scattered.”
The Batwa face arrest and imprisonment for “trespassing” inside Bwindi or the nearby Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, from which they were also evicted. Imprisoned Batwa are often forced to work in construction and waste disposal. Reports of abuse date back at least to 2001, when one Batwa man is said to have been shot at by guards when he was found inside Bwindi.
In 2013, the Batwa filed a petition before Uganda’s Constitutional Court, seeking justice for the violation of their land rights. The case is still ongoing.
An indigenous organization in Peru is suing the government for failing to protect uncontacted tribes from invasion and oil exploration.
AIDESEP, Peru’s national indigenous organization, is taking Peru’s Ministry of Culture to court for failing to meet its legal obligation to map out and create five new indigenous reserves and to protect the highly vulnerable uncontacted peoples that live inside.
In 2007, Peru awarded Canadian oil company Pacific E&P the right to explore in Yavari Tapiche, a proposed indigenous reserve in the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier. AIDESEP has been calling for the creation of the reserve for 14 years, and Survival International has been leading the global campaign for uncontacted peoples’ right to determine their own futures.
Campaigners fear that uncontacted Indians in the area could be wiped out by violence from outsiders and diseases to which they have no resistance. Oil workers run the risk of coming into contact with uncontacted people, and the exploration process involves thousands of underground detonations which scare away the Indians’ game.Contact was a disaster for the Matsés, exposing them to infectious diseases and leading to violence with outsiders.© Survival International
The Matsés tribe, who live near the proposed reserve, have been protesting against the government’s failure to bar oil exploration. At a recent tribal meeting, one man said: “I don’t want my children to be destroyed by oil… That’s why we’re defending ourselves… and why we Matsés have come together. The oil companies… are insulting us and we won’t stay silent as they exploit us on our homeland. If it’s necessary, we’ll die in the war against oil.”
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet, but Peru’s authorities seem to consider oil company profits more important than peoples’ land, lives and human rights. This failure to create indigenous reserves is not just an environmental catastrophe, it could also lead to entire peoples being wiped out forever.”Since contact, the Matsés have suffered severe illness, especially malaria and introduced diseases that their plant-based medicines cannot cure.© Survival International
- AIDESEP is Peru’s national organization for Amazon Indians. It lobbies for indigenous Peruvians’ human rights.
- AIDESEP filed the Legal Compliance Action with Lima’s Superior Court of Justice, with the support of legal organization IDL.
- The Peruvian Ministry of Culture is responsible for mapping out and protecting tribal territories. Uncontacted tribes are supposed to have their land protected under Peruvian law but, in reality, protection is often inadequate or non-existent.
- Peru has also ratified ILO 169, the international law for tribal peoples, which requires it to respect tribal peoples’ human and land rights.
- Uncontacted tribes in the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier that could be wiped out without robust land protection include uncontacted members of the Matsés tribe.
- Many of the Matsés were forcibly contacted by American missionaries in 1969, following violent clashes with settlers in the area. Contact brought violence and disease and killed many members of the tribe.
- The 5 proposed Reserves are Yavari Tapiche, Yavari Mirim, Sierra del Divisor Occidental, Napo Tigre and Cacataibo.
We know very little about uncontacted tribes. But we do know there are more than a hundred around the world. And we know whole populations are being wiped out by genocidal violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
Uncontacted tribes are not backward and primitive relics of a remote past. They are our contemporaries and a vitally important part of humankind’s diversity. Where their rights are respected, they continue to thrive.
Their knowledge is irreplaceable and has been developed over thousands of years. They are the best guardians of their environment, and evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.
Tribal villagers in India have made a desperate plea to be allowed to stay on their ancestral land in central India – a region which inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book – in the face of threats from the local forest department to illegally evict them.
The Baiga people from Rajak village in Achanakmar tiger reserve have been told that they must leave land they have been dependent on and managed for generations – despite there being no evidence that their presence there harms the environment. They have the right to stay under Indian and international law.
Indian campaigners have previously alleged that “corrupt officials can… siphon off money” from the funds the authorities make available for relocations.These tribal people were illegally evicted from Similipal tiger reserve, and later found living in poverty under plastic sheets.© Survival
One Baiga man said: “If somebody takes me from the jungle to the city then it is as if they are killing me.”
In a letter to the forest department, the Baiga said: “In Rajak the land is very fertile and we have been living here for generations. But because the village is in the core area [of the tiger reserve], we are continuously under pressure. We are being told to go to Bharatpur village. We have seen the land there, it is full of stones and it will not fulfill our needs. It is not suitable for us to raise our children there and their futures will be ruined.”
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “India’s forests are still being destroyed by industrial “development” and tigers are still being poached. But forest officials choose to bully tribal people and throw them off their land. It’s a con, and it’ll harm the environment. It’s time the big conservation organizations condemned these fake “voluntary” relocations and admitted what they really are, illegal evictions that lead directly to the destruction of entire peoples.”The devastating decline in Indian tiger numbers was mostly caused by colonial and elite hunting rather than by tribal peoples - who have lived alongside tigers for millennia.© Survival
- “Relocations” must be voluntary under Indian law. Despite this, tribal people are frequently bribed, threatened with violence and, in some cases, face arrest and beatings, torture and even death.
- Achanakmar was originally established as a wildlife sanctuary and declared a tiger reserve in 2009. Its 914 square kilometers are home to tigers, leopards, sloth bears, elephants and striped hyenas, among other species.
- Baiga means “medicine man.” Baiga people are known for their distinctive tattoos, and for their very close relationship to their environment.
- Tribal people were evicted from Similipal tiger reserve in 2013, and were soon after found living in dire conditions under plastic sheets.
- Many Baiga were evicted from the nearby Kanha tiger reserve in 2014. They received no land, houses, or support but were supposed to find land to buy with their compensation money, an alien concept for those who’d lived all their lives in the forest. They told Survival: “We got some money, but we are lost – wandering in search of land. Here there is only sadness. We need the jungle.”
- In one tiger reserve in southern India where Soliga tribal people won the right to stay on their land, tiger numbers have increased at well above the national average.
Tribal peoples’ lands are not wilderness. Evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else. They are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. They should be at the forefront of the environmental movement.
But tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of conservation. The big conservation organizations are guilty of supporting this. They never speak out against evictions.
Survival International is pleased to announce that actor, writer and director Simon McBurney has become an official Survival Ambassador.
As founder of the famous Complicite theatre company, Simon is an acclaimed theatrical artist, and has also appeared in films including the “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and the “Harry Potter” and “Mission Impossible” film series.
He has performed throughout the world with Complicite, and won numerous awards for his writing and directing. His most recent work is “The Encounter” – a one-man immersive theatrical experience set amongst the Amazonian Matsés tribe. The show is currently touring Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
In 1998 he received an Olivier award for his choreography in a production of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” He has also received two Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, the Konrad Wolf Preis, and the Nestroy-Theaterpreis. He was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to theater.Simon McBurney performs “The Encounter” – his acclaimed one-man show about the people of the Javari Valley in Brazil.© Gianmarco Bresadola
Simon is a long-standing Survival supporter with an interest in indigenous rights and environmental causes. He has spent time in the Amazon with indigenous peoples.
As a Survival Ambassador, Simon will help to bring the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights to broader global attention, and to campaign to help tribal peoples defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.
Simon joins actors Gillian Anderson, Sir Mark Rylance, Joanna Lumley and Julie Christie, artists Sir Quentin Blake and Kurt Jackson and jeweler Pippa Small as an official Survival International Ambassador.
Survival Director Stephen Corry said: “We’re delighted to have Simon on board as one of our official Ambassadors. It’s fantastic that Simon wants to help bring our message to a wider audience, and join the fight for a world where tribal peoples are respected as contemporary societies and their human rights protected.”